Despite how much time I spend I dissecting outfits and breaking down ways to properly achieve certain styles, the fact remains that fashion ultimately has no rules. That’s just how art functions. It is, however, completely possible to approach personal style (which includes your beauty routine) with a bad attitude or misconceptions, and this can negatively impact a lot more than just your look. Here are ten mistakes you might want to reconsider:
1. You think having the latest trends is a foolproof way to look fabulous: So very, very wrong. Sure, it’s great to look current and in-style, but not every hot new trend is going to fit into your look organically or flatter your figure. Dressing well and having a strong sense of style are a matter of identifying and staying true to your taste, and dressing for your unique body. With that said, even catering to your body type is mostly a matter of confidence. Basically, wear what you love, not what magazines say you should love or what everyone else is wearing on Instagram. Besides, trends are usually fleeting, and blending in is often boring. Sometimes it’s best to feel out a trend’s longevity and see if you actually love the look before you drop cash on it.
2. You pile on too many trends at once: Slow down there, buddy. We get it: you’re cool. Except you don’t look cool—you look like you’re trying too hard (you are), and quite possibly look a little insane. Avoid a lifetime of unfortunate photos and keep your trends and statement pieces per outfit to a minimum. There are 365 whole days in a year to do each trend justice, so do that.
3. You have a “that’s so last season” state of mind: Whether you’re thrusting this concept unto yourself or others around you, it’s silly. We all love having cool new things, but newness shouldn’t define the value of everything in your wardrobe. What are you going to do? Throw everything away at the end of each season? Since fashion repeats itself, just like every aspect of history, I feel justified in hoarding clothes I’ve had since high school (maybe even middle school)…Fuck anyone who wants to make you feel inferior for wearing something that isn’t fresh off the runway. If you ask me, the most stylish people know how to repeatedly find fun and fresh ways to wear what’s already in their closet. If you’re concerned about having a passé wardrobe, then I yet again discourage you from investing in a lot of hyper-trendy pieces. Instead, splurge on versatile classics with a twist that you can see yourself wearing often and for various settings/occasions. And if you’re honestly so obsessed with having nothing but “the latest,” you’re using fashion as a status symbol, and it probably stems from greater insecurities. You might even polarize others with this snobbish outlook on style. What are you trying to prove? Perhaps pause to consider real therapy over retail…
4. You’re dressing for someone else: NO!!! Whether it’s for a crush or significant other, your parents, or friends you’re trying to impress, your wardrobe should never be the product of someone else’s ideal version of you. Your style is yours to define. There is a time and place to adhere to a dress code (like your place of work), and it’s one thing to occasionally adjust your look for special circumstances (my grandmother’s independent living facility is waging a war against shorts), or to sport your S.O.’s favorite color as a romantic gesture; but if you’re constantly adjusting or straight-up hiding your true personal style (read: YOUR IDENTITY) to appease others, that’s not healthy. We all want approval, but at what cost? Your appearances can be a huge factor in self-expression, and stifling your style to make others happy won’t make you happy in the long run. Ditch or stand up to the people who want to change you, and learn to impress people by staying true to yourself. (Quick question: does anyone else always feel incredibly sorry for the people who wind up on What Not to Wear? Like, let them live!)
5. You secretly want to change your look or try something new, but you’re afraid that people will react negatively or that you can’t “pull it off”: I understand that this can be a career-related issue for some folks, but let’s pretend that’s not part of the equation. Come on out of the fashion closet, and come out wearing what you want! Taking fashion and beauty risks can be scary, but also extremely liberating and fun. If you can’t think of a single person in your life who wouldn’t judge you if you altered your appearance or experimented with your style, then there’s your real problem. Since that’s probably not the case, life is short, so you should shed your insecurities and take the plunge. If you’re just not sure how to go about it, that’s what friends, social media, and professionals are for. Talk to your fashion-loving friends, look to Instagram for inspiration, and seek the knowledge of experts. High-end retail sales associates (I mean, you probably shouldn’t go Old Navy to inquire about the art of wearing drop-crotch pants), professional hair stylists and makeup artists are always ready and waiting to help, so take advantage of their advice. Just because executing a certain style doesn’t come naturally to you doesn’t mean you can’t do it. If you’re really nervous about debuting a new look, take it for a spin with someone you trust, because I have news: “pulling it off” is almost entirely about wearing your clothes with confidence. If you loved the idea of a particular style but feel painfully awkward sporting it in public, people can probably sense your discomfort, and you’re probably not pulling it off. Wearing something you think is cool should make you feel cool. It’s that simple. If dramatically changing your look is a gender-related, or generally deeper identity issue, I realize that you’re facing something more complex; however, I still think opening up to someone you can trust is the first step. If you’re not ready to show the world who you are, try talking about it.
6. You think fashion is cool and want to elevate your style, but you’re worried people will view this change as a sign of superficiality: Look, fashion has no policy on newcomers. Unless all you do is stare in the mirror, take selfies and obsess over your outfits (lol), then it’s unlikely people will react negatively to your newfound appreciation for style. If someone does suggest that you’re shallow for upgrading your look, know that their attitude is a result of their own personal issues, and don’t make choices based on their passive-aggressive insecurities. Think of stepping up your style game as starting a new diet or getting into fitness—as long as you genuinely aren’t high and mighty about it and don’t attempt to impose your style unto others, odds are that people will be either supremely supportive or won’t care either way. There’s no shame in taking pride in your appearances!
7. You immediately cast off people who love fashion as being superficial: Haven’t you heard that old saying about what happens when you assume? Fashion isn’t for everyone, but consider the irony of this attitude. The idea that fashion and intellect are mutually exclusive is more outdated than shoulder pads, and the implication that you can somehow estimate whether or not a person is grounded based on their outfit proves you’re pretty superficial, yourself. There’s only one way to get to know someone. Wait for it…You have to actually get to know them. I’m not sure why you’re under the impression that loving fashion is any different from loving any art form (all of which involve vanity to some degree), but you need to get over yourself, quickly. No one is asking you to give a shit about Fashion Month, but we will ask that you not presume those of us who do are lesser beings. Congratulations on not caring about your outfit. If it’s really the inside that counts, well, you still kind of suck.
8. You love fashion, but you use it as a vehicle to be negative or exclusive towards others: I loved watching Joan Rivers roast people’s outfits as much as the next guy. You are not Joan Rivers. Whether you’re online or out with friends, if you’re channelling a lot of your passion for fashion towards mocking other people’s outfit choices, or even worse, body shaming, you need to realize that you aren’t being funny, you’re being toxic, and furthermore, you’re completely missing the point of personal style. It’s 2016. Fashion is an artistic form of self-expression that belongs to anyone who wants to participate, and it’s not your place to make people feel shitty about how they do so, or who they are. Because that’s the thing. Style and body image are an extension of people’s personalities, so it’s time to take a break from judging others and take a closer look at yourself, beyond the mirror. Ask yourself why you’re so compelled to criticize, as it’s definitely part of a larger problem, and your negativity won’t make you popular in the long run. Consider keeping those nasty insults to yourself, and learn to take pleasure in complimenting and celebrating styles you do admire instead of hurting others to make yourself feel superior.
9. You obsess over size: Literally every brand cuts clothing differently these days. It’s almost impossible that you’ll be the same size across the board, so you may sometimes have to take a different size than expected, and this might make you feel self-conscious. Even some individual brands have inconsistent sizing within singular collections, so try not to take sizing so personally. If you’re forcing yourself into clothes that don’t fit properly because you can’t get past the little numbers or letters on the size label inside, you’re ultimately just making yourself feel (and probably look) uncomfortable for no good reason, and to no one’s benefit. No one is going to reach inside your clothing and announce your dress size to the world. Please love yourself enough to purchase clothes in the sizes that make you physically look and feel your best. Much like those on the scale, you can’t let the numbers on a size tag define you. If there is someone in your life who is policing what size you take and making you feel bad about your body, that’s not ok. You need to do yourself a favor and take steps towards correcting that dynamic, or cut off the relationship entirely.
10. You don’t know how to shop, you hate everything you buy, so you’ve thrown in the towel: If I’ve learned anything from my time working in retail, it’s that most people find shopping overwhelming and style to be intimidating. You have no strategy, and without appropriate intervention, this can lead to bad habits, like buying a lot of clothes without actually trying stuff on, making a lot of online purchases from brands or retailers you’re not familiar with, and just constantly buying stuff that you later realize you don’t actually want or need. I’ve found that many people who struggle to shop effectively ultimately resolve to convincing themselves that since clothes don’t *really* matter, it’s easier just to stop caring and live life in outfits that miss the mark. Though shopping can seem like an impossible chore, if style is something you’d like to possess, there really are solutions. For starters, start scouring social media for images of looks you identify with and consider #goals to get a better idea of what you might like to achieve going forward. Tap your most fashionable friend(s) and ask if they’ll accompany you on your next shopping venture, and stop blowing off sales associates who genuinely want to help. Open up to these people about what it is you need and why you’ve been struggling, and learn to embrace their honest opinions—and while you should allow these people to push you outside your comfort zone to try garments that might seem strange on the hanger, you also shouldn’t be afraid to say no if friends or stylists suggest something that just doesn’t feel right. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for a special occasion, and if styling yourself doesn’t come naturally, don’t go shopping when you have very little time to spare. Give yourself a solid few hours to find things you love instead of settling or leaving empty-handed. Slowly but surely, you and your fashion advocates will zero in on your true personal style, and you’ll start to build a wardrobe that makes you feel fabulous. As for online shopping, this is for advanced shoppers who are super in touch with the styles and brands that suit them best, and who’ve become familiar enough with certain online retailers to choose the right sizes without trying items on. I’m sorry, but you’re just not there yet. Baby steps!
If you’re in the Boston area and need help shopping for a special occasion (wedding, graduation, concert/festival, job interview, etc.), I offer freelance styling services! Contact me (Annie Goldman) at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.